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[Review] Degrees of Separation – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Moondrop Studios
  • Publisher: Modus Games
  • Release Date: 14/02/2019
  • Price: £15.49 / $19.99
  • Rating: PEGI 3 / Everyone
  • Review Code provided by Modus

Introduction:

Degrees of Separation is 2D puzzle platforming game that was designed to be played solo or local co-op, it was announced that an online co-op mode is planned for a future update. Whether you play solo or co-op the game is played using two characters, Ember the fire girl and Rime the ice boy. The uniqueness of the game becomes apparent after they meet up, the characters are separated by a barrier that is constantly between them. Ember’s immediate area is surrounded by warmth and light, Rime’s area is dark and cool. Throughout Ember and Rime’s journey they will use these combined elemental powers to solve puzzles, open pathways, and ultimately find the answers to what is threatening their kingdom.

The rift between Ember and Rime

Game-play:

One thing that is immediately clear is that the main puzzle mechanic behind Degrees of Separation is unique and I found it to be quite refreshing and interesting. The screen is constantly split in half with Rime’s area being cold and frozen while Ember’s area is warm and vibrant. The whole game-play loop is manipulating the warm and cold areas to solve puzzles and traverse through the different areas. The beginning of the game has fairly simple mechanics, for example there are a number of lanterns that will raise a platform if warmed by Ember and lower a platform if cooled by Rime. Other puzzle mechanics are introduced as you progress, Rime can make snowballs to create a platform to access higher ledges, Ember can melt the snowball again to help roll it through tight spots, there are a number of geothermal vents that can launch Ember onto ledges, Rime has the ability to turn those vents off so Ember can walk without getting pushed around. The most interesting mechanic is when it comes to water, not surprisingly Rime freezes water and can walk across the surface while Ember keeps the water liquid and she can run underneath. This mechanic makes precise character placement and placement of the rift the key to solving puzzles.

The goal of each level is to collect black & white scarves that are used to open up the next area. Some of the scarves are fairly easy to get while others require manipulation of the environment to obtain. Some scarves are also not immediately obtainable and will require revisiting the level in the future.

The waypoints allow you to quickly travel around the game’s levels

The levels themselves are fairly open and non-linear, you have the option to backtrack and explore areas that open up as your progress, also there are multiple way-points throughout the levels that you can use as a fast travel warp system to get around the levels quicker.

The game is playable either as a single player game or as local co-op. The only difference in single player is that you have to switch between the two characters. For the review I did play both ways and it was completely enjoyable regardless. A lot of games suffer because either the single player feels tacked on (Overcooked for example) or because the multi-player isn’t equally balanced. Degrees of Separation is a rare gem that is equally enjoyable either way it’s played.

Graphics & Sound:

The game’s graphics are definitely a high point for this title. The transitions between Ember’s warm palette and Rime’s cool palette are seamless. Even if you run around as fast as you can and swing the rift around the game didn’t suffer from any noticeable framerate dips. The game’s dynamic lighting is quite impressive as well. One of the main puzzle mechanics is lighting and extinguishing lanterns and seeing the lighting change really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The game’s environments are very beautifully crafted, the world feels alive, but also abandoned and empty as the pair explore. The only negative I have towards the graphics is the character animations, from the beginning of the game when the characters wake up their movement just felt stiff and clunky. Overall the character movement doesn’t hinder the platforming or movement, it just looks a little unnatural.

Ember’s flame-filled environment

The music and narration add to the relaxing feel of the game, the female narrator’s dulcet tones help to guide the player along Ember and Rime’s journey. The narration acts as a tutorial of sorts as well, providing the player with insights and backstory not only about the locations you visit, but also feedback about the actions that Ember and Rime perform.

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • Unique puzzle solving mechanic using warmth and cold split across the screen to interact with the environment.
  • Highly polished graphics, music and backgrounds provided a high-quality experience.
  • Game is equally enjoyable as single-player game or as a local co-op experience.

Cons:

  • Character movement and animations are clunky and stiff.
  • Game is a bit short (5-6 hours to beat or maxed at 8-10 hours for full completion) for the price.
  • Game is a single playthrough game

Overall Degrees of Separation is an incredibly well-polished puzzle platformer. The graphics and music are perfect for the mood of the game and create an overall very relaxing experience that allows the player to focus on the story and the puzzles without worrying about timers or dying.

Score: 4/5

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